I’d only planned to spend a day and a night in Bremen, but I enjoyed my time there so much that I decided to stay a second day and explore some more of the town. I’d done some research overnight and decided that I shouldn’t miss wandering the narrow lanes of the ancient Schnoor district of town. This was the centre of economic life in Bremen when it was a member of the Hanseatic League. Here, on the banks of the River Weser, fishermen, merchants and craftsmen made their homes and plied their trade.
The area dates to at least the 12th century, and reminders of its long history are found scattered throughout the compact, almost claustrophobic, streets. The area gets its name from the Low German word “Snoor”, meaning string, because the small houses are packed together like pearls on a string. Today, this feels like the most touristy part of town, and the pretty half-timbered buildings have long bade farewell to their former residents in favour of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and souvenir shops.
Mostly the area is pedestrianised – it would be hard to imagine a car getting down most streets – and perfect for strolling. If you want to know more about the Hanseatic period the Bremer Geschichtenhaus museum does reenactments in period costume. I spent a couple of hours wandering around before visiting the nearby Kunsthalle, Bremen’s fantastic art gallery with a glorious collection that spans over 700-years of art history, from the Middle Ages to the present.
I wasn’t expecting the Kunsthalle to be so big, or have such a brilliant selection of art, but this one of the finest galleries in Germany. I was there for hours, a little transfixed by how great it all was. It was definitely time for lunch, but next door to the Kunsthalle is the smaller, more Avant Garde, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus. A modern art space that had me scratching my head trying to interpret what I was seeing. If it wasn’t immediately understandable, Volker März’s Horizontalist was at least visually arresting.
That seemed like enough culture of one day so I went in search of lunch in the Steintor neighbourhood. I reemerged on the banks of the Weser where a riverside park led me back into town. It’s a lovely walk, with occasional barges passing along the river. Back in the centre there are several ships moored on the waterfront and a bridge leading over to the thin end of the Teerhof peninsular that runs for a couple of kilometres and creates an inland ‘sea’.
This was an old warehouse district that was badly bombed in the war and is now mainly apartments and offices. There’s another supposedly excellent modern art gallery in a former cigarette factory, but one modern art gallery a day is my limit. At the end of the peninsular I crossed back over to the Schlachte Embankment, which is home to several good bars, restaurants and beer gardens. The weather was warm, so I decided to sit by the river and watch the world go by with a beer in hand.
I was reading my guidebook and realised that Bremen is not only home to the globally renowned Beck’s beer brand, but the brewery does one tour a day in English. I could see the brewery from the beer garden and decided it was worth visit. In case the guidebook was wrong I checked their website, and indeed there was a tour in English but, and it was a big ‘but’, they don’t allow you to take the tour if you’re wearing flip flops.
This odd rule disqualified me, luckily there were plenty of Bremen beers on offer along the Schlachte … and I didn’t even have to move.